At the age of 17, when Tamara Warner decided to become a teacher, she never imagined it would afford her the success she's achieved in the last 15 years in education. And she definitely didn't think it would lead to her being named a semi-finalist for the Louisiana Department of Education's 2018 Principal of the Year award.
Warner, the principal at Gretna No. 2 Academy for Advanced Studies, is among 24 other education leaders
who're currently in the hunt for this top honor. But, if afforded this esteem award, it wouldn't be Warner's first recognition as a school leader. Her staff and students recently surprised her during a ceremony where she was named the Jefferson Parish Public School System Elementary Principal of the Year. Warner says she'll never forget that day.
"My parents had come from Alabama, and the school superintendent and his staff were here, so it was really humbling. It was just a really special day," Warner said.
"Anytime that you're recognized for the hard work you do, the time that you put in, the support that you give, it's very humbling and it's very gratifying," she added.
Warner believes the Jefferson Parish school district has a great team of school leaders who diligently work hard to educate the kids in their schools, and so she's honored to represent her district as an example of the great leadership at all of their schools.
She credits a great deal of her success as a school leader to her staff. That's why she makes it a priority to ensure they have the necessary tools and autonomy she says is needed to guarantee academic achievement and overall
success for every student.
"I try to make sure that they are supported. Teaching is a very challenging job," Warner said. "Success is multifaceted when you talk about kids within a school setting. Kids need all levels of support, and it takes a team effort to make that happen."
Srija Tamidela, a fifth grader and Student of the Year at Gretna No. 2 Academy, was a scholar at the school prior to Warner's tenure. Tamidela loved her former principal, but she says the district couldn't have picked a better person to take the reins.
"I think Ms. Warner is a really good principal. She really cares about us and she listens to everyone," Tamidela said. "When I received the Student of the Year award, she made it a big deal. Usually they just announced it, but Ms. Warner made a really grand celebration."
"I try to make sure I put children's needs ahead of anything and everybody else," Warner said. "Of course those decisions are underpinned with policy and procedure, but I think when you purposely put children's needs first, most of the time you're going to make the right decision."
Before the Principal of the Year is selected, Warner says that she and the other semi-finalists have another extensive round of interviews to undertake. All finalists and semi-finalists will be honored at the 11th Annual Cecil J. Picard Educator Excellence Symposium and Celebration on July 28 in Baton Rouge.